Luke 22:1-6 & Ephesians 3:16-21
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
March 13, 2016
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you about love and betrayal.
Each year around this time the news begins it count downs, 6 days until spring, 29 days until the Sox home opener and 36 days until the Boston Marathon.
Ah the Boston Marathon, for 32 years Team Hoyt ran the Boston Marathon. For those of you who are not familiar with Team Hoyt, they are a father and son racing duo. The father Dick Hoyt runs behind his son Rick, while pushing him in a wheelchair.
Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalize Rick because there was no chance of him recovering, and little hope for Rick to live a “normal” life. Rick since his birth has not been able to walk or talk. Some might say his body betrayed him.
When we hear the word betrayal or think of someone who betrays, often times we think of our Judas from today. We don’t know why Judas was chosen or choose to betray Jesus. Was it all in the plan, did he and Jesus meet up before and have a side conversation about what was about to transpire? Was it out of greed, after all in Matthew 26:14-15 we are told, “Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.”
Whatever the reason we know the outcome, Judas betrayed Jesus, turned him over to the authorities. Hear these words about the betrayal: “While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.” (Matthew 26:47-50).
We later learn in the Gospel of Matthew about Judas’ death:
“When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:3-5).
I cannot imagine the remorse and self-hatred Judas must have felt, perhaps like a black pit in his stomach, making him wanting to buckle over in tears wishing the ground would swallow him whole. The depth of his emotions lead him so far as to take his own life. What pain he must have felt.
I then wonder if Jesus and God forgave him.
As Christians we believe Christ is God incarnate. That Jesus is God walking with us. So if we believe Jesus forgives Judas, then God must also.
Since our scriptures do not clearly contain a passage in which we read Jesus saying to Judas, “I forgive you” we must look back on Jesus’ ministry and actions. One place many Christians point as a sign of all our sins being forgiven is at the cross. While hanging on the cross, some manuscripts state that Jesus exclaimed “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Them and they including all of humanity, including Judas.
When we look back on Jesus’ ministry we see a ministry of forgiveness, love and compassion. Much of his ministry is set around food, in fact the last supper is a center piece of our faith, becoming what we celebrate as communion each month.
Every time he ate, Jesus fed everyone he had an open table. We see this throughout the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus’ critics complain, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (5:30) and “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (15:2). Moreover, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner” (19:7). So when Jesus includes Judas in this last, sacramental meal, he is simply extending the same ministry of compassion and forgiveness because he already knew that Judas would betray him, for he says: “but, see the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.” (22:22).
Jesus also forgives. After his death and resurrection in his finally meeting with his disciples he said to them: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48).
Rick Hoyt could have felt, and maybe even did feel that his body betrayed him. He could not talk for the first 10 years of his life. It was not until engineers at Tufts University developed an interactive computer just for Rick which allowed him by moving his head to write out words on a computer screen. The day came when the computer was complete, Rick’s family was excited to see what his first words would be. May be a “Hi Mom” or “Hi Dad”, instead Rick said “Go Bruins!” It was 1972 and the B’s were in the Stanley Cup finals after all. While Rick’s body may have failed him, his father’s love never did. These two men have competed in over 1000 races from 5Ks to marathons and Ironmans.
While Rick’s body may have betrayed him, his father’s love has not. Just as I believe our Heavenly father, our God’s love, will never betray us. The Apostle Paul at first persecuted Jesus and then on the road to Damascus, he had his famous conversion where he heard the voice of Jesus saying “why do you persecute me?” Paul was then blinded and once God’s plan for him was revealed, scales fell from his eyes and he could see again. He then went and was baptized and began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues. (Acts 9)
Paul is responsible for much of the New Testament, hear it again one of the prayers he wrote in his letter to the Ephesians: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Christ may dwell in your heart, rooted and grounded in love…that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.
What an awesome prayer, that we may be rooted and grounded in love. After all God is Love and all who love know God. And what a mighty goal for us to work towards feeling the vastness that is the love of Christ. That is the thing about God and Jesus Christ’s love, it is bigger than we can imagine. Paul asks us to call on our loved ones who have passed to help us try to comprehend it. I think it is like loving children. When our first niece was born I was head over heels in love with her. Then when our second niece was on the way, I was worried that I would not love her as much as I loved the first one. Man was I wrong, I love her just as much and the same goes for the two nephews we have added to the family. I never knew the breadth, length, height or depth of love until those 4 kiddos were born. That is just a small realization for me of how big God’s love for us must be.
I believe in a kind, merciful, loving and forgiving God. A God who forgave Judas and Paul and who forgives us.
God’s love and mercy are beyond what we can offer one another, yet is here for us to accept with no limits. Christ sees us at our best, as well as our very worst, and still accepts us completely with open and loving arms. For nothing can break us from God’s love. You are loved and You are forgiven.